St Francis Q&A

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

"Faithful" = state of Grace

Three anonymous bloggers recently commented on the statement I make before Holy Communion at every Mass, “let all faithful Catholics come receive our Lord”:

1) “Perhaps it would be helpful to those of us attending Mass if, prior to the distribution of the Eucharist, you did not say that all "faithful Catholics" may come to Communion. The bishops of the United States recently published a statement on our decision making process to feel worthy to receive Communion. The bishops spent several years preparing this statement. Could you have some of these pamphlets available in the back of the Church for parishioners? I know of friends who do not go to Communion when you are the celebrant at Mass because they say they don't know what a "faithful Catholic" is. I hope you will think about just how powerful the words "faithful Catholic" are to the people in the pews. It means different things to different people. I believe that the bishops' statement will help each of us (ordained and lay) examine our conscience in a way that will truly light our path to the celebration and participation in the Sacrament.”

2) “It does seem as though there are very many who question what being a "faithful" Catholic means. I've always thought being faithful means acknowledging Christ as my savior, acknowledging the true meaning of the Eucharist and following the rules as I know them. I am certain that I do not now ALL the teachings of the church, but I do follow those of which I am aware.”

3) “I thought that the requirement for receiving Communion is being in a state of grace which means being free of mortal sin. When I hear "faithful Catholic," that sounds like much more than being free of mortal sin. I don't go unless I'm with my children so I can avoid having to tell them that I'm not worthy for reasons I do not fully understand.”

Thanks, Anons, for your comments. My primary intention is to remind people about a) who may receive the Eucharist, and b) who we are receiving in the Eucharist. Yes, when I say "faithful Catholics", I am mainly referring to Catholics who are in a state of Grace. But, it would seem a bit too legalistic to say that at Communion each time. I'd rather it be more of a spiritual invitation than a statement of a rule. And, the latter part of my statement – “come receive our Lord” - is more of the focus than the former part.

I am open to appropriate suggestions, if bloggers have them, of how to remind people the guidelines for receiving Communion in a brief way before each Communion. I have included some of the bishops’ 1996 statement below. It says “participants should not be conscious of grave sin”. I agree with the bishops, of course, but I don’t think it would be best to mention “grave sin” before Holy Communion each time. While it might be more direct than “faithful Catholics”, it would generate a much more negative spirit at that moment and in general.

I have found that most people know what it means to be a faithful Catholic. It’s like being faithful to your spouse. You know when you are faithful and when you are not. I am not saying, “perfect Catholics”; it’s more like “practicing Catholics” but a bit deeper. Most Catholics know when they have stepped out of Grace and into mortal sin; they may not know all of the teachings of the Church and even the theological terms involved, but they know when they’ve done something seriously wrong. I am simply reminding them and others about respecting the Eucharist. I have heard many comments from people who have responded with this respect after hearing my reminder. I don't do it for myself; I do it for the souls of those at Mass and for Jesus our Lord.

“As Catholics, we fully participate in the celebration of the Eucharist when we receive Holy Communion. We are encouraged to receive Communion devoutly and frequently. In order to be properly disposed to receive Communion, participants should not be conscious of grave sin and normally should have fasted for one hour. A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord without prior sacramental confession except for a grave reason where there is no opportunity for confession. In this case, the person is to be mindful of the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition, including the intention of confessing as soon as possible (canon 916). A frequent reception of the Sacrament of Penance is encouraged for all.”


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